Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Remembering Ukrainian students lost to war

Kelly Hueckman / Advance-Titan Vladyslav Plyaka is a Ukrainian student at UWO created an exhibit which showcases 40 Ukrainian students who were unable to graduate due to the war.

UW Oshkosh student Vladyslav Plyaka highlighted the stories of 40 college students in Ukraine who were killed because of the Russian invasion through a traveling exhibit titled “Unissued Diplomas.”

“I think that this particular exhibit is perfect for the university setting because it kinda gives students a chance to see student lives in other countries from another perspective,” UWO Ukrainian lecturer Oksana Katsanivska said.

The exhibit, which was on display throughout UWO’s Social Justice Week from April 15-24 in Reeve, showed 40 portraits of Ukrainian college students who were unable to graduate because their lives were ended in the war.

Next to each student’s photograph was a short summary of what they were studying, what kind of extracurriculars they participated in and, eventually, how they died.

Plyaka, a freshman who has lived in the United States for the past two years, said organizing this exhibit at UWO was particularly sentimental because it showed the personal stories of people who had a lot in common with himself.

“…you see all those students, you see all those stories,” Plyaka said. “For me, it was so sad to see that someone decided to invade an independent country and take those young people’s lives for no reason. We can see many students were my age. One student is from my region, and from regions near mine. And they were 18 years old.”

Although he was supposed to return to Ukraine for postsecondary education, Plyaka’s family urged him to stay in the United States because it was not safe for him in his home country.

Native from Ukraine, Katsanivska came to Wisconsin on a work visa.

She said that as the invasion has surpassed the two-year mark, the increase in death and constant media coverage has desensitized people to the war’s effects.

“We are well into the war now, so the numbers are skyrocketing in terms of civilians dying, in terms of military dying, and the scary part is that at some point, they just become numbers, so people don’t take that as personally as they should be,” Katsanivksa said.

There were 10,582 Ukrainian civilian casualties between Feb. 24, 2022 and Feb. 15, 2024, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Katsanivska said that by narrowing the scope to just a small fraction of the casualties gives students a more relatable and eye-opening approach to understanding the war.

“This exhibit tells the stories of young people, and it makes it more personal,” she said. “It makes you think, ‘Well, technically, that could have been me.’”

These stories can help UWO students feel more grateful for their educational opportunities, Katsanivska said..

“You read about those people and think they would probably rather be in class right now,” she said. “They would appreciate this opportunity, so you start valuing what you have more.”

Plyanka said that some students who viewed the exhibit were shocked that the Russo-Ukrainian War was ongoing.

“That’s the point of this exhibit, to raise awareness about the war in Ukraine,” he said. “So students, who are the future of the United States […] they need to pay attention more to the issues worldwide, not just things that are local or national.”

Other students were deeply-moved, according to Katsanivksa, who allowed students to write about their experience with the exhibit for extra credit. She said one student found the exhibit particularly poignant.

“It’s something that can’t not move you […] You cannot stay feeling the same way you felt before coming in there,” Katsanivska said. “Something will change.”

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